Ralph Campana was 41 years of age when he was killed on August 17, 1975. His last words to me are emblazoned on my heart. After kissing me goodbye and walking to his car on that Sunday morning, he peculiarly made a second trip past the house where I was standing on the front porch. “Did you forget something,” I asked. “Just had to have one more look,” was his response. He was one of three firefighters who were working on a pumper truck while wading in knee-deep oil, water, and naphtha when the pumper truck burst into flames engulfing all three. Five other brothers were killed and others were injured in their attempts to save the three. Ralph was a veteran of both the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force. He was known in the neighborhood for always being available to play with the neighborhood children. Often a knock on the door was from a little boy asking, “Can Ralph come out to play?” Around 9:30 p.m. on that eventful night, a fire chief came to the house to tell us that Ralph was “missing.” (Perhaps he missed a recent roll call. We will keep you informed). My daughter, Kathryn, pleaded with me to drive to the scene to look for her father. We prayed with all our hearts and souls, but at 1:30 a.m. on Monday, Mayor Frank Rizzo came to our home to tell us that Ralph had been killed along with several of his brothers at the Gulf Oil Refinery in Philadelphia. The funeral Mass for Ralph and four of his brothers was held on August 22, 1975 at the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul in Philadelphia. Ralph and I had four children. Kathryn was 12, Michael was 11, Elizabeth was 10 and Susan was 8. He would be so proud to know he now has 9 grandchildren who know him and love him although they’ve never met him. We keep his memory and the memory of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice alive, and we pray for them each and every day. May God help those who cannot help themselves. Please keep our Firefighters safe in your loving arms.
Submitted by his loving wife, Lois
This firefighter line of duty fatality occurred before the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial was built in Emmitsburg, Maryland. While this firefighter has not been officially honored at the Memorial site, there are plans to do so when resources are available.